If you are just starting out online, these things called a hashtag can be pretty confusing. But they are integral to the way we communicate online, and it’s important to know how to use them (even though some people, like Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, are not the biggest fans of people using them in everyday life.)



 A hashtag is a word or a group of words preceded by a pound (#) sign, which is used to categorize and find conversations around a particular topic or trend.

So, what does that mean to you? Well, it is a way to be able to understand, search for and watch what is going on in the online world.

and…. love them or hate them… Hashtags are like the Kardashians, you can’t ignore them!

History of Hashtags: 

Emerging on the social scene slowly, hashtags have gained huge momentum. Whether you’re posting on Instagram, Google+, or Twitter, hashtags are the way to keep your social media accounts happening.

Trending hashtagsIn geek-speak, hashtags are data tags which are used for grouping conversations around a specific topic. For example, suppose you are interested in Social Media Marketing. You could search the various social media sites for #socialmediamarketing. The search will then pull up any posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and such that use that hashtag, then you can be a part of the conversation.

On Twitter, hashtags are also used to discover what’s trending, and to follow breaking news. Click on a hashtag to get a real-time feed of the posts using that hashtag, or to get an overview of an event.

How to Use Hashtags


Which characters can you include in a #hashtag?

First of all, spaces are an absolute no-no.

Even if your hashtag contains multiple words, group them all together. If you want to differentiate between words, use capitals instead (#SocialMedia). Uppercase letters will not alter your search results, so searching for #SocialMedia will yield the same results as #socialmedia.

Numbers are supported with hashtags, so you can tweet about #50ShadesOfGrey to your heart’s content.

Punctuation marks are not supported as part of a hashtag, so commas, periods, exclamation points, question marks and apostrophes are out. You can also forget about asterisks, ampersands or any other special characters.

One things that gets confusing, specifically on Twitter is using a Hashtag versus the @ symbol. The @ symbol does something completely different.

Using @ before a person’s Twitter handle will tweet or talk to them directly.

A hashtag is a like a label, so it will not notify the person or account you are talking about.

What does this look like? Sometimes a conversation is happening about a specific person or celebrity, then users will hashtag a celebrity’s name instead of using her Twitter handle — it is acceptable to tweet #KatyPerry to talk about her Superbowl performance or actually talk to her by putting @katyperry.

However, if you are trying to reach someone directly, don’t use a hashtag.


Download The Hashtag Infographic


Most major social media platforms support hashtags.

Twitter: Twitter is the birthplace of the modern hashtag — hashtags used in Twitter are more versatile than other sites. Twitter hashtags are mainly used to ‘tag’ specific topics of conversation;

The “Trends” sidebar of your Twitter feed curates a list of hashtags you might be interested in, based on your tweets.

Facebook: Facebook added hashtag support in June 2013, but using hashtags has not picked up much steam. However, clicking on a hashtag in Facebook will take you to a list of posts containing the hashtag. And, the results are not limited to people you know.

Instagram: Hashtags are encouraged. Engagement is the highest using 7 to 11 hastags. You can choose hashtags to complement images and photos that you share. Hashtags can also help you discover new accounts and pick up followers.

Note: Some hashtags were created for Instagram photo challenges — #ThrowbackThursday, for example, encourages users to post past photos.

Vine uses hashtags in the same way as Instagram. Best practice is to accompany each of your Vine videos with at least one hashtag to maximize findability and shareability.

Google+: When you click on or search for a hashtag in Google+, the search results will include the original hashtag as well as posts with similar tags and keywords. Google search results display on the left side of the page, while hashtag results from within Google+ appear on the right.

Google also gives you the option to search within Facebook or Twitter.

Pinterest:  You can use Hashtags on Pinterest to mark and search for content. However, it is not highly encouraged. The entire description of a pin is searchable, so hashtags are not as needed.

You can however still click on a hashtag in a pin description. This will bring up results that contain the exact hashtag, plus pins with the same word or phrase in the description.

annoying hashtags

Best Practices with hashtags: 

annoying hashtags

Be Focused: If you’re using a hashtag to join a conversation, make sure the hashtag is specific and relevant to your topic. If you’re talking about the Superbowl, use #Superbowl instead of #football. A vague or generic hashtag like #sports isn’t effective either.

Keep it simple: Hashtags look like spam if they are used too often. A MAX of 3 hashtags should be used on Twitter and Facebook. You can use more on Instagram and Vine, but keep it relevant. And don’t hashtag the same word twice (“#Deadpool is a great movie! Everybody go see #Deadpool”). It’s #redundant. 🙂

Keep it in context: A tweet that contains only hashtags is confusing. If your tweet simply reads, “#mad,” your followers will have no idea what you’re talking about. Similarly, if you tweet, “#HouseofCards is #awesome,” you’re not really adding much to the conversation.


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Kristi Brown

Creativity Consultant, Sales & Marketing Strategist
/krēāˈtivədē/ /kuh n-suhl-tnt/
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